Devon County Council’s latest budget report slammed as ‘depressing’

County Hall in Exeter. Picture: Daniel Clark

County Hall in Exeter. Picture: Daniel Clark - Credit: Daniel Clark

Devon County Council’s (DCC) latest budget report has been slammed as ‘the most depressing’ finance report in 10 years by a senior councillor.

This title previously reported that the council was projecting a £28.1million overspend by the end of 2019/20. This number has now grown to £32million.

Councillor Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said it is 'the most depressing finance report' he has read in his time as a councillor.

"We saw a few days ago the news reports of children elsewhere being placed on narrow boats and in park homes by some councils. I believe we are at a crisis point," he said.

According to the council's latest report, the bulk of the deficit is from the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) funding shortfall relating to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

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DCC originally predicted there would be a DSG funding shortfall of £15.8million - as of month six this had grown by an extra £2.8million to £18.7million.

The authority predicted it would have only have an overspend of £4.3million to its general funds by month six - however it has spent £1million more than this.

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This means the total predicted overspend to its general funds now stands at £13.3million - and DCC is expecting a combined deficit of around £32million at the end of 2019/20.

The latest report by Mary Davis, the county treasurer, will be presented at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday (November 13).

Mrs Davis' report says: "Like many other local authorities with education responsibilities the pressures being experienced within the DSG are becoming unmanageable against the current levels of funding."

She says DCC will get an additional £5.5million in SEND Government funding in 2020/21 - almost £3million less than anticipated due to changes to the distribution formula.

She added: "Given this funding uncertainty and the size of the projected deficit it is suggested that the deficit on SEND is not dealt with at the end of this financial year but held on the balance sheet as a negative reserve.

"This would allow the deficit to be managed across several years and give time for service managers and schools to develop recovery plans.

"This treatment is in line with proposals currently being consulted on which are looking at clarifying the specific grant and ring-fenced status of the Dedicated Schools Grant. "It is not a solution, but it is a mechanism that gives more time for a solution to be found."

Visit this website on Wednesday (November 13) for news from the council's cabinet meeting.

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